THE GREAT SAMUEL Johnson (1709-1784) is supposed to have said to James Boswell on the 20th of September 1777:
“Why, Sir, you find no man, at all intellectual, who is willing to leave London. No, Sir, when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford.”
Now, 245 years later in 2022, I largely agree with Dr Johnson, but not completely. Every now and then, it is wonderful to leave London in search of the open countryside, fresh air, wide expanses of sky, and a different way of life. Equally, it is satisfying to return to the city feeling refreshed and, sometimes, having been away from it, seeing familiar things in a new light. Our excursions from London have ranged from several months to several hours. The latter, shorter outings, have been invaluable during the recent period when because of covid19 travelling abroad has been difficult, to say the least.
One of our current favourite destinations for brief outings is the tiny village of Abingdon Piggots in southern Cambridgeshire. Although it is only about 90 minutes’ drive from central London, it feels as if it is almost in a different world from the metropolis. Despite being close to Baldock and Royston, the village seems as if it is in the deepest countryside. It has not more than 60 well spread-out houses, a church, and a hostelry called the Pig and Abbott.
The Pig and Abbott is run by Pat and Mick. It is a traditional country inn where one can enjoy a drink as well as eating superbly cooked, tasty food. We have visited the pub at least six times since we first discovered it in July 2020. Each time we go there, we are welcomed like old friends. I suppose we have become regarded as ‘regulars’. Mick told me that most of the regulars come from the area around the village. Of the 60 or so households on the village, only about 10 use his pub. I asked him whether we were amongst his furthest customers. He told me that we were, but one of his regulars, who lives in Alaska, always drops in when he visits Cambridge, where he has work colleagues.
After a hearty meal at the Pig and Abbott, we always take a stroll along Church Lane to see the small church in which there are graves of members of the local Piggott family. The lane is flanked by fields in which one can watch sheep and horses grazing. There is hardly any sound to be heard except birdsong.
Pleasant as is this bucolic scene, it would not suit me to live in it for more than a day or two. I am an urban creature at heart and the humdrum of city life suits me well. My childhood was spent amongst gardens and trees in the Hampstead Garden Suburb in north London, yet I never enjoyed the place as much as central London, which I began visiting with my parents at a young age. I guess that although I enjoy my occasional forays outside London, I cannot disagree with what Johnson said to Boswell all those years ago.